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Minor redistricting calls for First District voter boundaries

Equity issues suggest bigger changes for Santa Rosa, West County

By Jay Gamel

Sonoma Valley’s Supervisorial District 1 seems to require few changes to its voter boundaries according to a map submitted by a citizen commission tasked with defining the next iteration of all supervisorial districts based on late-breaking Census 2020 data. The districts are subject to change with every census to ensure that they are equivalent (within practical limits) and continue to meet specified state and federal rules for setting voting district boundaries. The rules are designed to prevent political mischief when drawing boundaries and to ensure marginalized populations are not disenfranchised.

The new map does remove Bennett Valley from District 1, joining it with Santa Rosa in District 3. It adds a large area near Mark West Springs to consolidate a “community of interest” now represented by both Districts 1 and 4. A third change would add Fountaingrove, Porter Creek, and a large chunk of northeast Santa Rosa to District 1.

District 1 Supervisor Susan Gorin questioned two of those changes, asking if the Advisory Redistricting Commission (ARC) had considered Bennett Valley as a community of interest, and noted that most residents in the Mark West Springs are happy having two supervisors working on their problems. She is quite happy to take in her former neighborhood in Fountaingrove where she lived while serving on the Santa Rosa City Council.

“Supervisor Gore (D4) and I are in agreement to share the boundary of Mark West Springs Road, Porter Creek and Petrified Forest Roads,” Gorin said. “We have worked well to represent the watershed and the fire survivors of the 2017 fires. I am comfortable with the issues of the fire-ravaged communities in the Mark West and Rincon Valley, as well as those communities along Calistoga and St. Helena Road.”

“All in all, I am comfortable with the boundaries of the First District – keeping Sonoma Valley as a whole with minor corrections on the boundaries on the west and north.”

Gorin did suggest aligning the First and Second districts along the Sonoma Mountain ridgeline to better reflect the communities of interest on either side of the mountain. She also suggested moving Taylor Mountan Regional Park to District 3 as a bonus for those district residents.

This year marked a definite swing toward ensuring ethnic and cultural equity principles are observed and respected, with the first ever Advisory Redistrict Commission appointed and then expanded to provide more inclusivity and a wider variety of cultural input. With those constraints in mind, the ARC’s most surprising suggestion was moving Rohnert Park out of District 3 to the coastal District 5, an idea that drew immediate fire from people in both districts and seems doomed from the start.

A more practical change aimed at reuniting the now divided cultural areas of Moreland and Roseland within the Third District, now comprised mainly of Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park. That would in large part depend on moving Rohnert Park out of District 3 to balance population numbers among the districts. There are just under 500,000 according to the new figures, and even a bit lower than the 2010 numbers.

No changes at all are required under existing redistricting rules because there are no population differences more than 10 percent in any of the existing districts. Equity issues are what are driving the suggested changes.

“You made equity the center of our work,” ARC vice-chair Anna Huerta told supervisors at their regular meeting on Nov. 2. That noted, all supervisors indicated a willingness to work with uniting the Roseland/Moreland communities within a single district.

The redistricting process calls for a fifth public hearing scheduled before the supervisors on Dec. 7. Supervisors are expected to adopt an ordinance on Dec. 14, one day before the statutory deadline to adopt the new map.